Today marks 20 years since my dad passed away.  Today we buried his best friend, who stepped in without hesitation to take on the roles my father could not fill– walking me down the aisle at my wedding; advising, guiding and mentoring me in starting a business; and being an always-present figure I could count on.  While there are so many wise words of wisdom this special man shared, the words that stuck with me more than any other were those that brought my father back to me again.  Whatever the occasion, he would tell me what he thought Dad would be thinking in that moment.  Be it happy and proud moments, or spirited political debates (as friends on opposite sides of the aisle, these last years of politics might have done them in!), he always made a point to insert my dad into our conversations.  That was so meaningful.
While you may make you feel a bit uneasy, today I would like to encourage you to set aside your hesitation and make an effort to talk about a lost loved one in your next conversation with their family.  
1.    Bring up the deceased in conversation, because the family is still thinking about them, too! “Do you remember the time your brother was at my house as a kid and…”
2.    Invite the surviving partner to join your regular events/outings.  This is something my mom experienced numerous times.  The surviving partner is also a friend, so please continue that relationship! The widow/widower is still alive and still wants to be your friend.
3.    Remember the dates.  Birthdays, anniversaries, dates of death, ANYTHING you remember.  Send a text, send a card, let the family know you are thinking about them.  Because they ARE thinking about their loved one on this day. 
4.    Holidays. The one less place at the table, the missing face, his or her special dish–it’s all noticed, so bring it up! 
These conversations may be difficult and uncomfortable. Someone might cry, but not because he or she doesn’t want a loved one mentioned. The fact is that even though time has passed, the love is still there and memories can elicit tears…and smiles and laughter.  So, reach out.  Extend an invitation.  Share a story.  Acknowledge the sorrow…and the joy…created by love.